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Council supports waterways reform

10 Mar 2016

Council supports waterways reform Image

Hopes for reform of local waterways suffered a setback last month, but the City of Melbourne has pledged to take up the issue.

On February 19 members of the Lower Yarra River Use Future Directions Group (LYRUFDG) were told the State Government would reject its recommendation for a single independent waterways authority.

However, it is understood that Environment Minister Lisa Neville is yet to make a decision on the matter and has agreed to receive a community delegation to discuss the matter on March 23.

Speaking at the Future Melbourne Committee meeting on March 8, Lord Mayor Robert Doyle said the council would be making representations to Ms Neville for the declaration of a local port.

“The policy position of this council is for a declaration of a local port.  We’d like to see that sooner than later.  We think that this is the eminently sensible way of managing our part of the Yarra,” Cr Doyle said.

Council’s environment chair Cr Arron Wood pointed out that a planning process looking at protection for the river was running in parallel, but answering to Planning Minister Richard Wynne.

“Having attending the last reference group meeting for the Yarra River Protection Act, I think we have some way to go in talking with both ministers about the lower port declaration,” Cr Wood said.

Cr Wood stressed the need to communicate the difference between the environmental protection of the river and the pressing governance issues.

One of the key recommendations of the LYRUFDG, which comprised private and government representatives, was the establishment of a new local port.

But proponents were told Ms Neville does not intend to support this approach, instead favouring a model, which will see the existing governance structure remain relatively unchanged.

According to the final LYRUFDG recommendations to Ms Neville, the current governance situation is too difficult for the private sector to navigate and, accordingly, the river is failing to reach its tourism, heritage and environmental potential.

The group also recommended the establishment of a management committee, headed by an independent chairperson, charged with implementing a “shared vision” for the Lower Yarra and working with all relevant agencies to oversee management of the river.

But it’s understood that LYRUFDG delegates were told, while Ms Neville supported the “shared vision”, she was likely to endorse a different approach of asking the relevant government agencies to work together more collaboratively.

Rather than an independently-chaired management committee Parks Victoria could be provided with funding to establish and support a committee to advise it on management and berthing issues.

And, while the future governance of the waterways isn’t looking good, it’s understood the situation is potentially more positive for commercial boat operators.

It’s understood Ms Neville broadly supports these recommendations and that money will be provided to improve berthing conditions.

The LYRUFDG had advocated for longer-term leases for commercial overnight berths.

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